A walk through the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek
Neve Tzedek was the first Jewish suburb to be built outside Yaffo. This circular walk includes its prettiest streets, interesting buildings, and examples of the various stages in the development, then decay and now rejuvenation of this wondeful neighborhood. This circular walk starts at the corner of Pines St. and (Shalom) Shabazi St., but can be taken up anywhere along the route in the map shown below.
Time: Almost half a day if you like window-shopping and wish to visit the Nahum Gutman Museum and visit the HaTahana.
Directions and parking: For a large and convenient parking lot, enter “Hatahana Parking” into Waze. To then get onto the circular hike, go through the park adjoining the parking lot in the direction away from the sea and continue along Shabazi St until you come to the corner of Shabazi St and Achva St. Turn right onto Achva St and you are close to the beginning of our circular walk.
Type of walk: Circular
Public transport: Enter “Shabazi St.” into Moovit. The bus stop is a bit further along Shabazi St. than its intersection with Pines St. From the Shalom Towers it is about a 540-meter/ 5-minute walk to the beginning of the walk. The closest light rail is Elifelet Light Rail Station which is about a 10-minute walk to the beginning of the walk.
Outside the Nahum Guttman Museum
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Beginning, then decay and now rejuvenation of Neve Tzedek
The 1880s was a time of increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, primarily due to the Ashkenazi First Aliya from Eastern Europe. Some of this immigration was to agricultural settlements and some to cities such as Jerusalem and Jaffa.
A new suburb of Jaffa was officially established in 1887 by a group of Jewish families who wished to escape the crowded conditions in Jaffa, then a predominantly Arab city. Their aim was to establish a Jewish presence outside the walls of Jaffa in a neighborhood with modern housing. The initiators of this project were Sephardim, but their models were the cities of Western Europe. They named their new village Neve Tzedek, which means Oasis of Righteousness. This name reflects the vision of its founders who were predominantly middle-class, religious immigrants.
The individuals most involved in the establishment of this village were the businessman Aharon Chelouche, who was the first to move here in 1883, Simon Rokach, a wealthy businessman who owned much of the land of this area which had been purchased from an Arab sheikh, and Akiva Weiss, a Zionist activist.
The neighborhood thrived. The train station connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem was built nearby in 1892 and this also provided a boost to the neighborhood. By the 1920s it was attracting artists, writers, and intellectuals, particularly because of its low price of housing, and it became a hub of Jewish cultural and intellectual life.. Among its residents were the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, the painter Nahum Gutman and the writer Shmuel Yosef Halevi Czaczkes. Czaczkes later changed his name to Shmuel Yosef Agnon and is best known by his Hebrew acronym Shai Agnon.
However, from the 1950s onwards, as the city of Tel Aviv moved northwards, the neighborhood began a slow decay. Many of the houses were abandoned and over time were close to collapse. However, due in large part to the Suzanne Dellal Center establishing itself here and renovating deserted school buildings, beginning in the 1980s the neighborhood experienced a comeback. It is now one of the most fashionable and expensive in Tel Aviv.
In this walk you will see some of the original homes. Note that they are of a different class from say the homes built in Nachla’ot in Jerusalem during this period. The homes in Jerusalem were designed as modest housing for people of limited means and were sold almost at cost. The homes in Neve Tzedek were built for bourgeoisie, and are comparable in quality to the homes of the German Templars, as seen for example in Serona.
In this walk, you will see some of the decay that occurred in this neighborhood, although this is fast disappearing. You will also almost certainly appreciate that this is now a very trendy place with cafes, bars, galleries, boutiques, artists’ studies, and small shops. It has also become a popular tourist destination
The outside of the Aboulafia home
The outside of the Rokach home
The walk starts at the corner of Pines St. and (Shalom) Shabazi St. Walk down Shabazi St. in a westward direction. Notice its upscale shopping.
Turn left when you come to Achva St. By way of contrast look at the abandoned house at the corner of Achva St and Neve Shalom (point A on the map at 21 Achva St.). This was the home of Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook before he moved to Jerusalem on being appointed Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
Rav Kook was recruited for Jaffa as being a different, more modern type of rabbi than the predominantly East European rabbis already present in Palestine. Nevertheless, he also came from Eastern Europe, was a graduate of the prestigious Volozyn Yeshiva, and was an expert in all aspects of halacha and kabbala. On the other hand, he spoke Hebrew and was knowledgeable in aspects of the Enlightenment. He moved to Neve Tzedek in 1904. He had a yeshiva in his home and befriended the intellectuals of the neighborhood. He left Neve Tzedek in 1919 when appointed Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and soon after this Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. The abandoned home you see is typical of the fate of many of the homes here from the 1950s, although many are now being restored.
Turn right onto Sharabi St. This pretty street contains original homes, although many would have been renovated. At its intersection with Pines St. are the Twin Homes (#2). These are two homes built by Aharon Cheloushe for his first two grandchildren from different sons (#2).
These houses were supposed to be alike to obviate any rivalry, hence their being known as the Twin Houses. In actuality they are not quite alike. One is slightly larger than the other and they had to be allocated by lottery. They were built in 1915 with material from the family’s workshop and were intended to incorporate traditional styles commensurate with the rest of the neighborhood - hence the arched windows, ornate balconies and decorative details – but blended with contemporary touches such as clean lines.
Continue down Pine St. to Shimon Rokah St. and turn right onto this street. On the left is the Rokach House (C)
Rokach House at 36 Shimon Rokah St. was the home of Shimon Rokach and is one of the original houses of Neve Tzedek. Its design reflects the Art Nouveau architectural style popular in this period. It has a large copper dome. It was a museum dedicated to the life and work of Shimon Rokach and the history of the beginnings of this community but is now boarded up.
Further along Rokah St. is the Nahum Gutman Museum (E) on your right at 21 Shimon Rokah.
This is the original home of Nahum Gutman. If you are a visitor or recent immigrant to this country, there is a good chance that you have never heard of this artist, but he was an important figure at this time and place and his artwork is displayed in a number of prominent places in Tel Aviv.
Nahum arrived in this country with his family in 1905 and they moved to Neve Tzedek. This building was built in 1887 and is one of the original buildings of the neighborhood. Nahum studied at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem and between 1920 to 1925 studied art in Vienna, Berlin and Paris, then centers of modern art. He was influenced in particular by Henri Matisse, Rasoul Dufy, Henri Rousseau and the French Orientalists. As explained in the museum, he fused this modern art with vividly colored, erotic, fantastic views reflecting Jewish national revival in the Land of Israel. Together with others, he sought to establish an artistic language for Zionist projects.
In one section of the museum is a display of his painting and in another his sculpture. On another floor is the exhibit Wormhole, an attractive exhibit which has nothing to do with this artist. Tickets for admission are purchased in the museum store. Admission is 30 NIS and for students and seniors 15 NIS. The museum is open Monday to Thursday 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., Friday 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., Saturday 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. and it is closed on Sunday. Their phone number is 03 516 1970.
The corner home on Shimon Rokah St. and Achva St (E) is the home of the Abulafia family.
After the death of her husband, the Abulafia widow rented the attic of her home to a writer Shmuel Czaczkes. He would be known eventually as Shai Agnon and would become a Nobel prizewinner for Hebrew literature. Agnon befriended the intellectuals in the neighborhood. All tour guides will doubtless tell you about Agnon’s crush on the daughter of Aharon Chalouche’s granddaughter. He was able to see her on the balcony of the Chalouche home across the road. However, a match such as this was disapproved of by the family as Czaczkes was no more than a writer. He mentions his crush for her in his book “Yesterday and the day before yesterday,” but makes no mention of the Chalouche home. Rather, in his book his room looked out over the sea. You can see the original Chalouche home and their synagogue to the south of their home. The family workshop owned by his sons was next door.
Turn right onto Chelouche St and then take the first left onto Yehieli St. This will bring you to the Suzanne Dellal Center (F) at 5 Yehieli St. You will come to a large courtyard. Immediately on your left as you enter the courtyard and on the other side of the wall is the impressive ceramic print work by the artist David Tartakover, who also lived in the neighborhood. It was created for the inauguration of the center and depicts in vivid colors the history of Neve Tzedek.
The Suzanne Dellal Center was founded in 1989 with the goal of producing world-class dance productions and mixed educational activities. It was set up in school buildings of the neighborhood that were no longer functioning. These buildings have since been renovated. The Center is the home of the Batsheva Dance Company and Inbal Dance Theater and it contains four concert halls, rehearsal studios, restaurant and café. There are also events and performances in the large plaza.
Exit the center by the continuation of Yehieli St and then turn right onto Kol Yisrael Haverim St. When this street comes to an end, turn right along Shabazi St. to return to Pines St. and the end of the walk.
Nearby places of interest:
You may wish to visit the nerby HaTachana, which was the site of the railway station for the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. It was built in 1892, but the station fell into disuse when this part of the railway closed. It contains some of the old buildings, some old railway carriages, stores and restaurants. It is not as exciting as say Serona. To get there, turn left on Shabazi St. and walk through the park. Take the road just before the parking lot to the left and this will lead you to HaTachana.
Map of walk through Neve Tzedek